Review: Zax Pints & Plates - Austin

After the great experience we had a Red's Porch, my wife and I decided to abandon the dinner plans I had made for our free night in Austin. Originally, I had made us reservations at the Four Seasons Hotel, but at the last minute we decided to venture out in search of something a little more interesting than a hotel restaurant. We didn't have to venture far, because around the corner from our hotel was a place who's name immediately sucked me in....Zax Pints & Plates.

Given that we had to rise at 5am the next morning for wedding festivities, our goal was to have an early dinner. We arrived at Zax around 5:45 expecting a large after work crowd, and instead found a completely empty restaurant. In addition, the kitchen did not begin their dinner menu service until 6pm, but this fit perfectly with our routine of arriving early for dinner in order to enjoy a beverage at the bar. I found the empty restaurant and "late" start to dinner service a bit odd, but then again, I'm used to living in a town where the Early Bird is king.
Zax Austin Once things got underway in the kitchen, we made our way to a nice table still in the bar area. The restaurant is fairly small, so to call one area the "bar" and another the "dining room" isn't exactly accurate, as they share the same space. I liked the simple design of the interior, and found our high top table in the bar quite comfortable.

Zax AustinAs the name suggests, a big portion of the story at Zax is beer. Behind the bar, they feature no less than 15-20 local craft brews on tap. When we arrived, the bartender was updating the taps, as the offerings change daily. Following my pre-dinner Manhattan, I moved on to a 512 Pale Ale and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Zax Austin
Our original plan was to have a tapas style dinner, and enjoy many appetizers as opposed to an entree. I started with the crab cakes, which I found to be good, but a little too cooked on top. For whatever reason, one of my pet peeves is forking into a crab cake, and having the entire top of the cake slide off with it. The cakes were served with a plantain chip and slaw, which I might have enjoyed more than the cakes themselves.
Zax Austin
Next we decided to split the Crab Louie salad, which was a hit. The lump crab meat paired with the spicy Louie dressing was in a word...awesome. This salad was big enough for two, so the decision to share proved a good one as wellZax AustinThe reason I earlier said our "original plan" was tapas, is things didn't exactly pan out that way. After our first two courses my wife and I both were feeling carnivorous, and the tapas approach simply wasn't cutting it, so we both opted for a steak. I went with the Steak au Poivre, and asked to substitute the steak fries for goat cheese and pistachio polenta. The steak was cooked perfectly and cured my beef craving, but without a doubt the polenta was the best thing about the dish. Its creaminess was the perfect contrast to the spice of the peppercorn on the steak.

Overall, I'd rate our experience at Zax "above average." I enjoyed the food, but there wasn't anything that made me stop and say "wow." The service was excellent, as it should have been given there was hardly anyone in the restaurant. Perhaps we went on an off night, but I was also hoping for a livelier atmosphere, and that may have taken some away from the experience. That aside, if you're looking to enjoy one of Austin's many local beers, Zax is most definitely your place.

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